U President Randall Joins Excelencia in Education to Support Latinx Students – The Daily Utah Chronicle
Recently, President Taylor Randall of the University of Utah joined the Excellence in education Presidents of the Latino Student Success Network.
Excellence in Education is designed to help Latinx students succeed in higher education by helping to advance practices at higher education institutions and conducting research to create new educational policies. The organization’s Presidents’ Network is made up of college presidents who are committed to making their institutions a place where Latinx students thrive.
Melissa Pardo-Choza, a junior at U studying urban ecology and vice president of the Latinx Student Union, said President Randall’s move is a very important recognition for the Latinx community at U.
“I think it’s really important for public figures to step into non-white spaces because in the past we’ve been marginalized or we just haven’t gotten enough attention,” Pardo said. Choza. “It’s really important when someone wants to invest in our community.”
Joining Excelencia in Education will also help first-generation Latinx students at U gain the skills they need for their post-college careers that they couldn’t get elsewhere, Pardo-Choza said.
“My parents, because they were immigrants, weren’t able to give me the skills I needed because they were too busy building a life for me and my siblings, and I think it’s a pretty common thing among other Latinx students,” Pardo- Choza says. “We’re usually first generation and we need that kind of support to move forward in life.”
According to Dr. Theresa Martinez, associate professor of sociology, Excelencia in Education will take steps at the U to retain Latinx students in college and help more people graduate.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Martinez said. “How many of our Latinx students are starting, graduating, and graduating, not just enrolling, but completing until graduation? This is what Excelencia really is. This is a very positive step.
It’s just the beginning
According to Martinez, joining Excelencia in Education is just one of the first steps in doing more for the Latinx community at U.
“For the president of the University of Utah, joining an organization like Excelencia is recognition that we need to do more to create more support pipeline,” Martinez said.
One way the U can continue to help Latinx students is to understand their backgrounds and adjust the cost of college to support the Latinx community, Martinez said.
“One of the ways they could do that is to help make college more affordable,” Martinez said. “Many of our students come from working-class homes where parents work two or three jobs. Past disenfranchisement has made it harder for families to send their children to school.
According to Martinez, there are also only a small amount of resources for the Latinx community on campus and the U should expand these resources in order to help retain Latinx students.
“I was excited to see the Black Cultural Center and wonder if we should have a Latinx Cultural Center on campus?” said Martinez. “The vast majority of students of color on campus are Latino students.”
A lack of representation
Yvette Coronado, assistant professor and field faculty liaison at the College of Social Work, said Latinx students are not adequately represented at U by faculty or in the curriculum.
“When we review the curriculum, we look at what books should be read, what stories are told or centered in class discussions, it’s largely influenced by who is teaching,” Coronado said. “Our faculty complements are not representative of the number of demographic percentages in the community.”
Latinx students also face challenges outside of the classroom, and the U should make investments to help these students outside of just education, Coronado said.
“If we look at where Latinos live, it’s mostly on the west side and the east campus on the east side,” Coronado said. “There is literally a financial and logistical element that they have to manage, like the time spent coming and going and the money spent coming and going.
According to Pardo-Choza, not only do Latinx students face financial and representational barriers, but social challenges and discrimination on campus are also widespread.
“A lot of us don’t feel like we can join the community on campus,” Pardo-Choza said. “Because of the language used in the surrounding minorities, we are not really considered human to many students.”
While battling these issues on and off campus, Martinez said it’s important for U to show the Latinx community that they are valued and supported by the institution and its faculty.
“We need to be the kind of institution that supports our students, believes in them, supports them through enrollment through completion,” Martinez said. “We have to remember that we are lucky to have them and privileged to have them here.”